06/04/2002 9:35 pm ET
The player now known as Prince
First-round choice Prince Fielder groomed for chance
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
Brewers' round-by-round picks
MILWAUKEE -- Mention the name Prince Fielder -- Milwaukee's first round pick Tuesday in the 2002 First Year Player Draft -- to anyone who's been around Major League Baseball for a number of years.
They smile and hold out a hand about waist high. That's how tall Fielder was when they first met him.
He was usually tagging along with his dad, three-time All-Star Cecil Fielder. And though it sounds like mere legend, the younger Fielder insists it's true that he was hitting batting practice home runs into the upper deck at Tiger Stadium before he reached his teen years.
"I remember one day -- he must have been 12 years old by that time -- and he was hitting the ball into the second deck on the right-field side," said Brewers catcher Raul Casanova, who played a partial season with Cecil in Detroit in 1996.
"Twelve years old? You're not supposed to be able to hit the ball that hard," Casanova said. "You just knew he was going to be something."
Brewers senior advisor Bill Lajoie worked 23 years in the Tigers organization, including eight as the team's general manager. He was there when the elder Fielder joined the team in 1990 and broke through with 51 home runs and 132 RBIs.
"Just watching [Prince] you knew he was special," Lajioe said of the youngster. "And he talked like he had a future, too. Even as a kid."
Now, that future is nearly here.
Fielder gave the Brewers a taste of his power last weekend during a pre-draft workout at Miller Park.
Lajoie said the left-handed hitter homered onto the third deck in Miller Park's right field and hit an advertisement just to the right of the center field scoreboard. Both were about 460-foot shots according to a study done by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee engineering students before Miller Park opened last season.
And Lajoie said Fielder even managed one off a U.S. Bank ad in right-center field, a distance literally off the charts prepared by the students. The best estimate? Close to 500 feet.
"[Cecil] has been telling me about his son for a long, long time," said Brewers manager Jerry Royster, who visits with Fielder at a golf tournament each January. "And I know the Brewers have had interest in him throughout his senior year."
Cecil Fielder called Tuesday's news his biggest thrill in baseball -- better even than his home run crowns in 1990 and 1991, his trio of All-Star appearances or his World Series ring won with the Yankees in 1996.
"This is awesome. As a father, I couldn't ask for anything better," Fielder told the Associated Press. "Any parent wants to see their child do better than they did and I'm convinced he's going to be a better ballplayer than I ever was."
Best of all was that Lajoie, who lived in the same Detroit-area apartment complex as the Fielders in the early 1990s, was a part of it.
"That's pretty cool, too, since he gave my dad one of his first chances to play in Major League Baseball," Prince Fielder said. "Now he's giving me a chance too."
The Felders were to meet Tuesday night with Tom McNamara, the Brewers area scout who works Fielder's hometown of Melbourne, Fla. and scouted him at Eau Gallie High School, to talk contract. Cecil Fielder will serve as his son's agent in those negotiations.
Lajoie will not participate in those talks, but said his relationship with the family is a good first step.
"That always helps," he said. "He knows me, and he knows about honesty and straightforwardness."
The Brewers are anxious to sign Fielder and get him started in the team's minor league system. Arizona State University is prepared to hand the 6-foot, 245-pounder a scholarship if he doesn't sign with Milwaukee.
"It's always leverage. Every high school player who went in the first two years this year has a scholarship to go somewhere," Brewers scouting director Jack Zduriencik said. "They're the best players in the country so they ought to.
"We know he wants to play. We did our homework on him. This kid wants to play pro ball. The family wants him to play pro ball. So it's just a matter of us spending some time together and getting to a point where everybody's comfortable."
Zduriencik said it's a good bet Fielder will begin with the team's rookie affiliate in Ogden, Utah.
Prince knows his dad will be watching.
"He's probably going to be just like I was," Prince said. "When I was watching him I was always criticizing, telling him what he could do different and all that. I'm pretty sure he's going to be the same way.
"It's pretty cool that now he gets to watch me and he can just sit back."
Adam McCalvy covers the Brewers for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Eau Gallie HS
Wide, heavy frame, especially through hips and thighs. Not sculptured look of most athletes, but better athlete than he looks. Excellent upper body strength. Son of former Major Leaguer Cecil Fielder. Quick, powerful stroke, short to ball with excellent bat speed through zone. Ball explodes off bat. Plenty of strength to hit with power